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Prebys Research Heroes

Improving Medical Research through Diversity


The Prebys Foundation in partnership with the Science Philanthropy Alliance launched a $7 million program designed to bring more diverse perspectives into the laboratory and yield ground-breaking medical research. The initiative seeks to address the critical gap in women and underrepresented groups in leading research positions by offering substantial funding to researchers for projects that might otherwise go unsupported. The foundation is pleased to present the first cohort of awardees, 14 brilliant researchers pursuing cutting-edge research that promises to tackle some of the most challenging diseases facing our world today.

About the Initiative

The Prebys Research Heroes program awards14 two-year grants, each providing $500,000, to researchers demonstrating exceptional promise in areas critical to advancing medical science, including liver, gastric, and pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, infectious disease, and mental health, among others.

This initiative comes at a crucial time when federal funding often overlooks high-risk, high-reward research. By stepping in to fill this gap, The Prebys Foundation and its partners hope to set a new standard for philanthropic support in science—encouraging more inclusive, exploratory, and promising research. Critically, the announcement comes as the White House released a new initiative on Women’s Health Research. The President’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) Spring for Women’s Health intends to fundamentally change the trajectory of women’s health care research and radically accelerate the next generation of discoveries.

The recipients of the grants are conducting research at key institutions in San Diego, a region increasingly recognized as a vital center for medical innovation. These institutions are at the forefront of diversifying labs and embracing a wider array of scientific questions and methodologies, thereby enriching the research community. They are: La Jolla Institute of Immunology; Salk Institute; San Diego State University; Scripps Research Institute; University of California, San Diego; and University of San Diego.

2024 Prebys Research Heroes Award Recipients

Click on each image to read a short bio and profile for each awardee.

Rachel Blaser_edited.jpg

focuses on the complex steps of human thought and memory


focuses on pregnancy health risks markers that could predict complications

Marygorret Obonyo.jpg

studying novel ways to identify genes that may cause gastric cancer and effective treatments

Sonia Sharma.jpg

focuses on a significantly understudied aspect of immunology, as a way to design treatments for Alzheimer’s disease

Lisa Stowers.JPG

focuses on learning more about how the brain works in order to develop medications and therapies to treat a wide variety of brain-related disorders


working to find a way to easily diagnose pancreatic cancer

Xin Jin.jpeg

working on the cellular underpinnings and fundamental principles of brain development

Angelica Riestra.jpg

studying ways to

protect women from trichomoniasis, which is caused by a sexually transmitted parasite


working on potentially groundbreaking research that could dramatically improve how we understand how the brain works


focuses on identifying markers for pulmonary hypertension diagnosis before it’s too late


works on two problems preventing cancer metastasis


studying the relationship between perceived well-being and stress among the Filipino community

Erica Ollmann Saphire.jpg

studies where viruses interact with the immune system

Sujan Shresta.jpg

research focuses on protecting against flaviviruses, including dengue, zika, west nile, and others that manipulate human immune cells

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